From the historic hallways of the most beautiful state Capitol in our nation, this is Senator Keith Ingram.
When the legislature is not officially in session, we have plenty to do with oversight of state government.
The Legislative Council and the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee are the main watchdogs over state agencies.
This week, the Council conducted its final meeting of the year, before heading home for the Christmas holidays.
One of the most important documents that lawmakers scrutinize is the state’s revenue report.
For the first six months of the current fiscal year, net revenue is up by 3 percent over last year. That is excellent news, because it means that the Arkansas economy is rebounding from the pandemic and business activity is increasing.
We learned that the state Office of Child Support Enforcement has beefed up its efforts to collect overdue child support from non-custodial parents who are behind in their payments.
More than 3,200 parents had their drivers’ licenses temporarily suspended because they had fallen so far behind paying court-ordered child support.
Also, more than 1,000 people had their hunting and fishing licenses suspended, and 540 people had a professional license revoked.
Those are harsh measures, but they are necessary to make deadbeat dads uphold their end of the bargain on child support.
Forcing non-custodial parents to pay child support is a crucial way of keeping down the cost of government programs like welfare.
It’s well known that if fathers don’t help pay for the care of their children, those kids are much more likely to end up needing government help through the food stamp program, welfare and Medicaid.
In other business the Legislative Council reviewed upcoming investments by the state’s Teacher Retirement System.
It is the largest retirement system in the state, and in order to protect its assets from unexpected downturns in the stock market, its investments are diversified.
Teachers in Arkansas will be glad to know that their retirement system is healthy and well positioned to ride out any storms in the financial markets.
If you’re a student of political science or public administration, a meeting of the Arkansas Legislative Council meeting is a wonderful opportunity to study the detailed operations of state government.
For example, every month this year about 250 state troopers and other employees of the State Police have gone in for dental and vision screenings.
Their health plan has paid $483,000 for dental work and $52,000 for glasses and eye care.
As long as those numbers stay the same from month to month, lawmakers won’t pay them much attention. But if there is a sudden spike in claims, we’ll start to ask questions.
Legislators spend a lot of time looking over spread sheets and financial statements, because state government is a multi-billion operation.
We never lose sight of the fact that ultimately, it is your tax dollars that we are looking out for, making sure it is spent correctly and wisely.
From the Capitol, it is always my great honor and sincere privilege to serve you as your state Senator. This is Keith Ingram.